A lot has been whirling around this week. Many people taking deep breaths, and then exhaling wide eyed shaking their heads. No one really knows what to say, what to do, what to think. All anyone can manage is, “Why did this happen?” There is temptation to go off into the philosophical. The, God made man with free will, Adam ate the apple, and now we are fallen discussion. But it seems so distant and cold when you’re holding sobbing friends and leaving nervous, frantic messages wondering if the person you left the message for is ever going to hear it. That isn’t to say there isn’t merit in that philosophy, there is, but it isn’t for a time like this. No one wants to hear about Adam, Eve, or that damn apple. We just want to know why.
There isn’t a why. Giving a reason why would serve only as justification – and there is no justification. The only thing to do is press on with the memory of the events embedded in our hearts. We are expected to go back to classes and carry on because in reality, that is all we can do. We cannot turn back time the same as we cannot prevent nightmares from entering our dreams. Sometimes, those nightmares haunt us in the morning.
We should take away from the tragedy a realization. My blunt mentor in his priestly wisdom told me, “You are alive now – but you might be dead in a minute. All you can do is be ready for that minute.” It is morbid, scary, and unsavory. But he is right of course. Some of us are fortunate enough to experience wrinkles, gray hair, and the senior special at IHOP (only 42 more years). And some – some are not so lucky. That is a hard realization for people my age. We are immortal. Until one morning in a blink of an eye, mortality grips us.
Don Henley sings, “This is the end of the innocence.” We don’t want to believe him. It is hard not to long for a purer time, or just to go back to Sunday. A friend of mine at Virginia Tech sent this text to me on Tuesday (note: added punctuation):
It’s crazy down here…I walk past AJ (The dorm where the first murders occurred) every day…everyone is crying and don’t know what to do. No one believes that this happened. No one thought that there were people this bad.
No one thought that there were people this bad. I repeat it over and over again. I look at my little brothers and sisters, and I can’t help but think of Reema Samaha. I want to freeze time, keep them safe – keep them little. Make sure they never, ever, have to face people this bad. But I can’t. All I can do is be ready for that minute. So I hold Sassy a little bit closer, and I tried to explain HTML code to Stephen as we formatted a blog together. He had no idea what I was saying (each color has a letter code like FFFFFF or B3B3B or zzzzzzzzzzz), but I needed to tell him. It was really more for my benefit.
When confronted with tragedy we must hope. The light will shine through the darkness. But in the darkness, when we can't yet see the light, hope carries us through. Meister Eckhart wrote, “What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure? It is the hope of loving, or being loved.” In times of incomparable darkness there is always hope.